Gubernatorial hopefuls: think ink

Demonstrate a commitment to your campaign message by getting a tattoo.

There are a lot of candidates coming out of the political vending machine for the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race, and IâÄôm having trouble telling them apart. With Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty officially out of the picture, Democrats appear to have the lean. Ray Glendening, the political director of the Democratic Governors Association, told the Star Tribune that PawlentyâÄôs exit âÄúleaves an open seat in a reliably blue state.âÄù But the talk in political chatrooms is about health care and unemployment âÄî with neither party receiving higher remarks. GlendeningâÄôs comments may just be wishful thinking. Either way, something needs to be done to separate a golden candidate from the masses. It may still be too early in the game, but eventually a candidate must play a wild card. I happen to have a suggestion. R.T. Rybak, you should get a tattoo. Yes, you. IâÄôm singling you out; your career path leaves you in the best position to pull it off. YouâÄôve made appearances at First Avenue and college campuses. YouâÄôve promoted Minneapolis as a âÄúbike-friendly cityâÄù âÄî even if you werenâÄôt referring to Harleys âÄî and youâÄôve proven yourself to be an avid social media user, a step toward relating to Generation Next. Take on a little ink and trust me, your voter base will explode. Let me give you a few statistics: In a June 2006 survey released by the American Academy of Dermatology, 36 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 reported having a tattoo. Twenty-four percent of adults ages 18 to 50 reported having ink. U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked tattoo parlors as the sixth-fastest growing U.S. retail sector of the 1990s. The popularity of tattoo television shows such as A&EâÄôs âÄúInkedâÄù and TLCâÄôs âÄúLA InkâÄù and âÄúMiami InkâÄù have also served to eliminate some of the negative stigmas attached to tattoo art and push it into the mainstream. ThatâÄôs right. Tattoos are now mainstream. If you want to appeal to your voter base, a simple, well-articulated design on your left bicep will not only get you the bikers, the anarchists, the hippies and the military men, it will also pique the interest of college students, soccer moms, business execs and more than a few grandparents. Tattoos can even cross party lines. A 2003 Harris Poll shows that 14 percent of those tattooed called themselves Republicans and 18 percent were Democrats, a fairly even split. Traditionally, tattoos have been used across the world to mark rites of passage, to represent status and rank, display symbols of devotion or to signify important life achievements. As early as the 19th century in Europe, family crests tattoos were popular among royalty. A politician with a tattoo today might not be as polarizing as you think. Obviously, my challenge is open to all wannabe governors, from fellow DFLer Susan Gaertner to Republican hopeful Pat Anderson. IâÄôm just picking on Rybak because he hasnâÄôt officially announced whether heâÄôs running. Most people go to the podium for that, but a trip to the tattoo parlor would be the perfect way to make a media splash. Forty-five minutes later, Rybak would be sporting a Governor 2010 stencil and a catchy campaign line across his back, and the election would be in the bag because, seriously, who can compete with that? Remember, this state elected Jesse Ventura. I think we can handle a little ink. Besides, people are tired of politicians going back on their promises, and I canâÄôt think of a better way to demonstrate a commitment to your message than to get it permanently inscribed on your skin. Ashley Dresser welcomes comments at [email protected]